Wednesday, 15 October 2014

ISACA CISM and CISA FAQ: You have less than 9 days to register!


The deadline to register for your December CISA and CISM exam looms ever closer. You now only have less than 2 weeks to apply before registration closes on the 24th October.

So whether you’ve already registered or are just about to – now is certainly the time to refresh your knowledge about the upcoming 13th December CISM or CISA exams.

Q. When is the next CISM and CISA exam?

The next CISM and CISA exam is on the 13th December 2014.

Q. When can I register for the December exam?

Right now! You don’t have long until registration closes on the 24th October!

Miss this and your next chance to take the CISA and CISM exams will be in June 2015 (the date is currently unannounced). 

Q. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the exam, how can I tell?

ISACA provide a handy Self Assessment Test for both the CISA and CISM exams.

These self-assessments will help candidates assess their knowledge of both the CISM and CISA practice areas respectively. The assessments contain 50 sample items covering the appropriate subject matter to match the exam blueprint.

Plus, these items are representative of the types of questions you could get on your CISM / CISA exam.

You’ll be in a great position to determine your strengths and weaknesses after taking these tests. If you can locate any gaps in your knowledge you’ll be able to better focus you’re studying.

Q. I want to speak to other people who are also revising for their CISM and CISA exams - are there any forums I can use?

ISACA have developed a community exclusively for CISA and CISM exam registrations.
These forums allow you to share ideas, experiences, questions and study resources with other like-minded professionals.

Both the CISA and CISM communities are intended to help you prepare for your exams. Chapter certification coordinators (part of the ISACA Chapter group who help promote IS audit and security professions) have also been invited to reply to questions and share their study methods.

The CISM community forum

These forums are moderated by past top exam scorers who facilitate and drive discussion. You can find the forums here:

Q. I can’t make the exam I registered for, can I defer?

If you can’t make the exam, you’re able to request a deferral of registration fees to the next exam date.

Defer the December exam and you’ll have to wait until the next one runs in June 2015. If you want to defer your December 2014 exam to June 2015 and you apply on or before 24th October 2014, you’ll be charged a US $50 processing fee.

Defer later than 25th October 2014 and you’ll be charged a $100 processing fee.

Keep in mind, December 2014 deferral requests will not be accepted after 28th November 2014.

If you need to defer your December exam, you can do so either online or by fax. You can submit your deferral on ISACA’s website.

Q. How are the CISM and CISA exams scored?

ISACA uses a 200-800 point scale with 450 being the passing mark for both the CISA and CISM exams. It is worth noting that the exam score is not based on arithmetic or percent average.

For example, a scaled score of 800 represents a perfect score with all 200 questions correct; whilst a scaled score of 200 is the absolute lowest score attainable and signifies that only a small number of questions were correct.

A score of 450 represents a minimum consistent standard of knowledge required by the ISACA Certification Committee. 

Q. If I want to comment on the testing conditions – how will I do so?

If you want to comment about the testing conditions you’ll have a chance to do so at the end of your testing session by completing ISACA’s, ‘Test Administration Questionnaire,’ located at the back of your exam booklet. 

Q. Why do I have to wait 5 weeks for ISACA to process my exam results?

ISACA take the processing of exam results seriously. Each item of performance is carefully reviewed to ensure that they performed in a fair and consistent way.

A review of the preliminary statistical analysis begins a week or two after the exams finish. This analysis is conducted in up to 10 languages, across all 4 ISACA exams.

These guys sacrificed both legs to pass their CISM.
 Now that's dedication.

Image courtesy of hywards/morguefile
ISACA state this is an essential step because it identifies items that performed poorly. These items with poor performance are then reviewed by members of their respective certification committee. If an error, inconsistency or anomaly is discovered the answer’s weighting can be adjusted to ensure candidates are not penalised for ISACA’s error.

Q. Why don’t ISACA offer their exams electronically? This is 2014 after all…

Since most ISACA certified professionals are typically IT professionals, you might expect them to conduct their examinations with the use of computers.

ISACA re-evaluates their transition to a computer based testing environment every year. However, they have not as yet been able to achieve an online exam environment that would be more efficient, more secure and more affordable.

Their research has indicated that suitable CBT sites are not available in many of their 250 locations. Plus, they cite that, when seeing competitors move to CBT, their exam fees have increased massively (often by 100%) to compensate.

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Using Host Groups to build a Private Cloud based on System Center 2012/2012 R2

By Debra Littlejohn Shinder

Everybody is migrating to the cloud – or so it seems. But some companies just aren’t ready to put everything “out there” in a public cloud, and for them, the private or hybrid cloud deployment model makes the most sense. Building a private cloud from scratch can be a daunting task, though. Microsoft has tried to make it a little easier for customers with Windows Server 2012/2012 R2 Hyper-V and System Center 2012/2012 R2.

Definitely clouds.
Image courtesy of arztsamui / morguefile
One of the important concepts involved in creating a private cloud that’s easy to manage is that of host groups. Host groups are created in System Center 2012 R2’s Virtual Machine Manager (VMM). VMM is Microsoft’s management solution for virtualized resources, including those in a private cloud. 

A host group is a simple idea: it allows you to manage multiple servers as one entity. You can then create your private cloud based on the resources that reside in one or more of your host groups. Microsoft’s cloud computing model encompasses three resource pools that make up the fabric. These are defined as compute, network and storage pools. The three resource pools are managed by VMM. For a better understanding of this, see the post Fabric, Cloud Computing Abstraction Integrated in VMM on Yung Chou’s Hybrid Cloud blog on the TechNet web site. 

Once you have a basic understanding, you can create your private cloud. Of course, you’ll need admin privileges to do this. There are some requisites, which include the preparation of the fabric in VMM. You can find out how to do that via the TechNet article Preparing the Fabric Scenario in VMM.

Once that’s done, you can get down to the business of creating the host groups in VMM. Here’s how: In System Center 2012 or 2012 R2 VMM, open the Fabric workspace and follow these steps:

  1. In the Fabric pane, expand the Servers node.
  2. Right click All Hosts.
  3. Click Create Host Group. 
  4. Replace the default name (New host group) with the new name that you want to assign to the host group.

You can create a tiered host group structure by repeating the process after right clicking the parent node under which you want to create a new child host group. You can create a parent host group for each different physical location, for example, and then within each one you could create host groups based on hardware capabilities (that is, the top tier group in each location offers the highest level of performance and reliability, etc.). You could also group hosts based on server roles or business units, or whatever structure makes sense for your organization. Note that you can also move host groups around to different locations within the tree structure if you need to. 

After you create your host group structure, you can configure the properties of the host groups. Back in the Fabric workspace, expand Servers again and then expand All Hosts, and click the host group you want to configure. Click the Folder tab, and click Properties in the Properties group. 

Here you can configure the following host group properties: 

  • General settings (group name, location in the hierarchy, description and encryption)
  • Placement rules for customizing on which host virtual machines are deployed
  • Host reserves (the amount of CPU, memory, disk input/output, disk space and network input/output that will be allocated for the host operating system on each virtual machine, either specified for a host group or for an individual host)
  • Dynamic optimization and power optimization settings (balancing of VM loads within a host cluster and evacuation of hosts to save power)
  • Network (inheritance settings for network resources including IP address pools, load balancers, logical networks and MAC address pools)
  • Storage (allocation of storage logical units and allocation of storage pools to host groups)
  • Custom properties for VMs, VM machine templates, hosts, host clusters, host groups, service templates, service instances, computer tiers and cloud. 

For more information about building host groups, see Part 2 of Brien Posey’s 11-part article on Building a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 over on the WindowsNetworking web site or to learn more about private cloud read Private Cloud Storage Network Storage Considerations series on

Author Profile

DEBRA LITTLEJOHN SHINDER, MCSE, MVP (Security) is a technology consultant, trainer and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security.

She is also a tech editor, developmental editor and contributor to over 20 additional books. Her articles are regularly published on TechRepublic's TechProGuild Web site and, and has appeared in print magazines such as Windows IT Pro (formerly Windows & .NET) Magazine.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

In the click of IT - Firebrand Apprentice makes it into the Daily Mirror


If you read the Daily Mirror this week you might have spotted Tom Davis, one of our talented Firebrand Apprentices.

Tom had a change of heart after his second year of A levels – ‘I realised that because I wanted to work in IT, I would be better off getting out there, learning while earning in a business environment.'

He contacted Firebrand and after an interview with IT firm, Adatis, Tom was successfully hired.

18 months later, having passed all elements of the course, Tom finished his apprenticeship and was recruited by Altius, another IT firm, as a business consultant.

Tom now travels across the country, helping clients analyse data and develop their businesses. ‘I’ve been here six months and love it,’ says Tom, ‘I do everything from meeting the clients, writing software, analysing the data and coming up with business solutions.’

But that’s not all; Tom is also an apprenticeships ambassador for Microsoft and now manages Altius’ apprenticeship and graduate programs.

‘At the time the company didn’t have a structured programme but I was given a budget and now they do.’

You can find the Daily Mirror’s full article below:

Tom Davis in the Daily Mirror

Why IT?

There are more than 1.5million people working in IT and Telecoms and employment in the sector is growing at five times the rate of any other.

And with 500,000 new professionals needed to fill IT jobs in the UK over the next five years, many more young people like Tom are needed.

IT professionals are in high demand; the Daily Mirror found 9,823 jobs at and another 27,827 roles at, including apprenticeships.

And they earn well to:
  • IT technician - £15,000 to £30,000
  • Senior technician - £25,000 to £45,000
  • Project seniors – £24,000 to £29,000
  • Project managers - £31,500 to £40,000
  • Senior Project managers - £40,000 to £80,000

Know somebody with a flair for all things digital who wants to avoid student debt and earn a real salary? Take a look at Firebrand Apprenticeships.

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Forgotten about your VMware recertification? Read this FAQ and get the discount


If you have a VMware certification or are planning on gaining one, listen up. You don’t have long to take advantage of VMware’s 25% off exam discount.

Plus, remind yourself about the VMware recertification policy, implemented March, 2014.

Why did VMware change their policy?

Previously, VCP certification holders were not required to recertify their skills. VMware explain that maintaining your expertise is just as important as gaining the certification initially:

‘If your skills are not current, your certification loses value. The technical and business communities expect that VMware certified professionals are current on the latest technologies and capable of implementing VMware products with the highest level of skill.’

There’s a lot to take in when it comes to recertification, and a lot of questions to answer. We put together a handy FAQ to help out VCP’s who might soon need to get back in the classroom:

Q. When did the policy go into effect?

A. VMware change their stance on recertification on March, 2014.

Q. Why is VMware doing this, what are the benefits?

A. As well as maintaining your skills in the fast moving technological landscape, you’ll also get the same benefits of newly certified candidates, like:

  • Recognition for your knowledge, skills and expertise
  • Official VMware transcripts
  • Access to the VCP portal & logo merchandise store
  • Invitation to beta exams and classes
  • Use of the VMware certification logo on personal websites and business cards
  • Discounted entry to VMware events
  • VMware Press discounts

Q. How long do I have to recertify?

A. If you gained your VCP level certification (VCP-DCV, VCP-Cloud, VCP-Desktop) before March 10, 2013, you must be recertified by March 10, 2015.

Plus, any VCP2, VCP3, VCP4 or VCP5 certifications can be recertified between 10 March, 2013, and 10 March, 2015, by simply taking a current VCP or VCAP exam. Be aware, however, that you must stil meet all current requirements for the VCAP exam.

Q. I earned my VCP level certification after March 10, 2014, how long do I have to recertify?

A. If you earned your VCP level certification after March 10,2014, you have two years to recertify.

Q. What happens if I don’t recertify?

A. If you fail to recertify within the allowed timeframe, your certification will be revoked. You will no longer be entitled to use the VMware logo or represent yourself as VMware certified.

In addition, your certification will no longer be shown as valid on your MyLearn account. Any employer that contacts VMware to validate your certification will be informed that it is no longer valid.

Plus, you will not be able to access the VCP portal if your certification is revoked.

Q. Is there a grace period after my certification is revoked, or do I need to start over?

A. VMware do not provide a grace period after your certification is revoked. You will have to meet all prerequisites for the specific certification and pass the exams to regain certified status.

Q. Will VMware contact me when my certification is about to expire?

A. Yes, you will receive an email notice at the email address associated with your MyLearn account.

Q. Is there a course requirement to recertify?

A. No. You’ll be able to recertify without a course requirement anytime within your 2-year recertification period.

However, VMware do recommend that candidates enrol in training – ‘hands-on experience through on demand or live (classroom or virtual) classes will provide you with the latest education to better prepare you for the exam.’

Q. Is the recertification exam any different to the normal exam?

A. No, the exam you take will be identical to the typical VMware exam.

Q. Will the recertification exam cost me the same?

A. Yes, it will. However, VMware are currently running a 25% off any VCP exam when you test before January 1, 2015.

And if you don’t pass, you can re-use your voucher continually until the January 1, 2015, cut-off point.

Find out about this offer here.

Q. I have multiple VCP certifications. How will I know when to recertify?

A. The most recent date will be used to determine your recertification deadline.

E.g. If you earned your VCP5-DCV on January 4th, 2012, and VCP5-DT on February 11th, 2014, then your recertification deadline will be based on the VCP5-DT date. In this case, your recertification deadline would be February 10th, 2016.

Q. My VCP level certification is over two years old, but I just received a VCA. Do I still need to recertify?

A. The only way to recertify your VCP is to pass a higher version of the exam or pass an exam of another track (Excluding VCA).

Q. What if my VCP is already 2 years old?

A. If you hold any VCP certification (VCP-DCV, VCP-Cloud, VCP-Desktop) that was earned on or before March 10, 2013 you must recertify by March 10,2015.

And if your certification was earned after March 10, 2013, you must recertify within two years of that date.

We hope that answered any tricky questions; please post in the comments if there’s anything we missed.

Firebrand run an official VMware vSphere 5.5 Fast Track course – if you want to get your recertification out of the way, or want to achieve this qualification – you could get it in only 5 days.

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The top 10 new features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 we want now


Microsoft’s newest version of its omnipresent Dynamics CRM software is set for a fourth-quarter release this year. It promises to boost collaboration between sales and marketing teams with a host of exciting new features.

With a focus on better customer services and increased sales success, we’re clearly not the only ones getting a bit impatient for its release.

So, whilst we wait, let’s take a look at Microsoft Dynamic CRM 2015’s new features - you now, the ones that we want now.

1. Simple Email editor

A simple drag-and-drop email editor will be included in CRM 2015. You’ll be able to create emails from scratch or customise any pre-defined templates.

The ability to alternate between a straight-forward visual editor and a HTML/CSS editor will allow those familiar with CSS and HTML code to build more advanced documents.

2. CRM for tablets enhanced

Microsoft has improved its CRM for tablet functionality. You’ll now get flexible, role tailored dashboards, personalised home pages and the ability to navigate by hierarchy.

Easily analyse data on the go and if you lose connection, you’ll still be able to draft new records, which will synchronise once you reconnect.

3. Sales and Marketing Collaboration

Sales will be able to access marketing campaigns through the Sales Collaboration Panel. This new functionality will allow appropriate members of the sales team to view campaign activities and control communications with their customers. They’ll also be able to set up and receive alerts based on their interactions.

That’s one less troll under the bridge between Sales and Marketing with this feature.

4. Field-level Security
If you want to change that field,
you'll have to get through Jim / Goldy

Your business has sensitive data that you don’t want everyone to have access to. Field-level security will let you restrict access to certain fields. A company admin can setup the CRM in such a way that salespeople will be able to view an account-number field, but not alter it.

5. Campaign Management Console

The Campaign Management Console has been improved to include multi-condition triggers and inbuilt A/B testing. You’ll be able to clearly see the effects of your testing with easily set-up A/B tests and results displayed through real-time analytics.

6. Sales Hierarchies

New visualisations will bring real-time territory and forecasting data. You’ll be able to visually explore and traverse hierarchies with key information displayed on tiles, launch actions or communications from any node.

The hierarchical view will allow salespeople to see how an account is performing in terms of revenue, find out who is working on the account and/or get help from others by sharing the account with colleagues.

7. Better Search

An improved quick search will make it far easier for Sales to find customer records. You’ll be able to navigate records by letting users enter keywords in the search box and nav bar.

Plus, support for more sophisticated searches can now be found in the new Advanced Find icon.

8. Guided Sales Processes

This new feature will guide sellers toward desired outcomes through branching logic and automated business rules.

Organisations will now be able to implement complex business processes, which will be completed automatically based upon pre-defined roles, to guide sellers toward their best sale.

9. Social Listening

Microsoft’s Social Listening tool will let your organisation monitor social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. You’ll be able to track your products, brands, competitors and campaigns globally in real time and gain an in-depth understanding of your customers and business across the social web.

Analyse what people around the world are saying about your organisation. You can now add news to your search topics and use location filters narrow your data set to see posts from specific countries or regions.

10. Product Families

Salespeople will become more efficient with this useful feature. Your organisation’s product management capabilities will be boosted through the ability to bundle products and simplify cross-sell/up-sell opportunities.

You’ll also be able to document product attributes and create relationships between customers and relevant products.

Comment and shout at us if we missed your favourite feature. And if anybody from Microsoft fancies contacting us and telling us when CRM 2015 is going to be released - that would be great!

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Download Windows 10 tomorrow and shape the future of Microsoft's new OS


Microsoft yesterday announced the launch of Windows 10. You can be the first to download the technical preview tomorrow by signing up to the Windows Insider Program. As an IT pro or PC expert, you will gain exclusive access to the beta and help craft what Windows 10 will become. 

For those eager to get hands-on with the technical previews for Windows Server and associated management tools, i'm afraid you're going to have to wait a little longer. These will be launched 'soon after', which roughly translates to 6-8 weeks.

So let's take a closer look at the new launch....

What to expect in Windows 10

Although it's early days in the development of the new OS, Microsoft's statement of intent is clear. Skipping Windows 9 and going straight to Windows 10 suggests that the new OS is less of an incremental improvement,  but an aspirational phase shift to a new generation of Windows Operating systems.

In fact, that's almost word for word what Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Operating Systems group at Microsoft said:

Windows 10 represents the first step of a whole new generation of Windows, unlocking new experiences to give customers new ways to work, play and connect. This will be our most comprehensive operating system and the best release Microsoft has ever done for our business customers,” 

In summary: Expect big things from Windows 10. With a focus on the Enterprise.

New Features

Although specific details are yet unclear, we've been given an advanced screening of what to expect in tomorrow's technical preview:

Start menu: Back by popular demand, the Start returns bringing with it customization features allowing you to add your favorite Live Tiles and Apps.

Everything runs in a window: Just like when opening standard desktop applications, the Windows Store Apps will now open in in the same format. Windows can be resized and moved around with the standard maximize, minimize and close buttons also included.

Snap enhancements: It is now possible to open 4 apps on the same screen with a new quadrant layout. This allows rapid transition between applications improving the ability to mutli-task. Should the 'quadrant layout' not contain 4 apps, Windows will suggest other apps with smart suggestions to fill additional screen space.

Multiple desktops: It's now possible to create different desktops for projects, purposes and jobs roles. A desktop for every occasion so to speak. These can be switched between with consummate ease.

New task view button: Transition rapidly between open files and desktops using the new task-view button found in the taskbar.

Find files faster: File Explorer has been upgraded to include a display of recent files and frequently visited folders.

Check out this video from Joe Belfiore,Vice President for Windows, where he introduces you to all the aforementioned features:

What the experts are saying

Whenever a new system is launched, everyone has an opinion. Having perused my way through every Windows 10 launch article imaginable, here's the buzz.

The Register - Iain Thomson
Microsoft unwraps WINDOWS 10. Evidently, Seven ate Nine

"It's very early days yet, and what we've seen so far is only a small facet of what's coming for Windows 10 and its apparent focus on the enterprise sector. More consumer features will be announced in the coming months but, based on the sneak peek, this new OS may get Microsoft back in the good books of enterprise buyers."

The Next Web - Roberto Baldwin
Hands on with the Windows 10 preview build

"Microsoft made certain the audience understood that we were seeing an early build of its next operating system. Early build or not, for power users that demand multi-tasking, the oddly named Windows 10 looks ready to help you get everything done."

BBC Technology - Richard Taylor
Microsoft unveils Windows 10 system with Start Menu

"The user interface feels familiar yet modern. The "dual mode" - which aimed to satisfy tablet and PC users, but alienated both - has been replaced with a dynamically-adjusting interface and behaviour, determined by whether you are using a keyboard/mouse, or touch."

"Ultimately Windows 10 success will depend on its execution. But at least under the new leadership, Microsoft is showing it is listening. It needs to if it is to stay relevant and stop the march of Android and Apple."

Techcrunch - Alex Wilhelm and Frederic Lardinois
Microsoft Announces Windows 10

"One thing Microsoft clearly learned from the experience with Windows 8 is that if it wants to build a single operating system and user interface for every device, it can’t just optimize for edge cases."

Techworld - Juan Carlos Perez
With Windows 10, a contrite Microsoft will try to atone for Windows 8 mistakes

"Humbled by businesses' dislike for Windows 8, Microsoft has issued a mea culpa, offered the world a first peek at Windows 10 and pledged that the new OS will delight IT executives. But the true test of whether Microsoft can move past its Windows 8 mistakes will come when Windows 10 is commercially released at some point next summer."

Make your own decision

Come this time tomorrow, you could already be getting to grips with Windows 10 and making your own opinion on Windows 10. As well as perhaps making some credible suggestions on how Microsoft can make it better.

I for one will be first to put my name down to see what's in store. Exciting times lie ahead.

About the Author

As part of Firebrand's global marketing team, Edward actively works to serve the IT community with news, reviews and technical how to guides. Working in the industry for almost 3 years, Edward has a wide variety of experience with Microsoft Technologies including SharePoint, Windows Server and Exchange Server. Edward is an active member of the IT community contributing to a variety of tech publications including Microsoft TechNet, Channel Pro and PC Advisor.